Incumbents Ousted in Adams; Harrington, Hnatonko ElectedBy Tammy Daniels
10:13PM / Monday, May 04, 2009
ADAMS, Mass. — Adams voted decisively for change on Monday night, ousting two incumbent selectmen and replacing them with two newcomers who have never held elected office.
Arthur 'Skip' Harrington and Jason Hnatonko were the winners in Monday's election.
Arthur "Skip" Harrington, a retired schoolteacher and former town building inspector, was the big winner of the night, polling 1,205 votes, nearly double that of his closest competitor, Jason Hnatonko, also a teacher, who garnered 698. That was more than triple the amount Hnatonko won in his first try for selectman last year.
"Wow ... All I can say is, wow," said Hnatonko after the results were read in the Adams Memorial Middle School gym Monday night.
"It's an incredible experience not only to have won but to have won by such a large amount," said Harrington at his victory party at Harrington's Restaurant afterward.
Bringing up the rear were one-term selectman and current Chairman Joseph Solomon with 546 votes and two-term Selectman Edward MacDonald with 392, according to the unofficial results.
The controversial departure of former town administrator William Ketcham, the town's budget problems and a perceived lack of openness by the board were major factors in the incumbents' defeat.
"I think the people have spoken," said veteran Selectman Joseph R. Dean Jr., who added many of the voters he'd spoken with during the day had said the Ketcham incident had influenced their vote. "It's a clear message to the old boy network that this won't do. The people are not going to put up with it anymore."
Of the town's 5,782 voters, 1,558, or 26.9 percent, cast ballots.
Town Clerk Paul Hutchinson, who was re-elected to another three-year term Monday, was disappointed with the turnout.
"It stinks. Considering there was a hot and contentious race this year," said Hutchinson. Still, the turnout was far better than last year, when only 1,025 votes were cast in an election that had a three-way race for a vacant selectmen's seat won by Michael Ouellette.
The two three-year selectmen's slots this year were the only races on the ballot; an article exempting farm animals and equipment from excise taxes passed overwhelmingly.
Harrington had run a campaign calling for more openness by the board and better understanding of how tax money was being used. Hnatonko advocated for more outreach and planning to draw business back to town and cooperation with other communities to make the area business-friendly. Both have said the board should be setting policy, not micromanaging town operations.
While the winners were awaiting results, the incumbents had left the school after a long day of campaigning. MacDonald, who had stressed the difficult decisions the Selectmen have had to make on the budget, left town before the results were announced for scheduled knee surgery. MacDonald had spent long hours standing at the intersection of Park and Center streets holding a oampaign sign over the past month.
Solomon was at the Grill on Summer Street, surrounded by supporters and campaign signs. "I don't think I campaigned as much as I should have," he said. "But I was working hard for the people."
Solomon stood by the votes he'd made on the board, saying he believed they were in the best interests of the town. He planned to continue his public service, on a suitable board if possible, and didn't rule out another run for selectman.
"I look forward to working with the new town administrator and the new selectmen," he said, adding with a grin, "I certainly won't be a quiet voice."
At Harrington's Restaurant, the jukebox was playing "We Are the Champions" as Harrington arrived and the crowd broke into chants of "Skip!" There were more than a few "Jasons," too, for Hnatonko.
Harrington credited his impressive win to his campaign committee, which sent out some 500 handwritten postcards urging people to vote along with letters to the editor.
The challengers and their supporters were quiet as Francis Meier of the Board of Registrars read off the results shortly after 7 p.m. at the gym. When it became apparent that both were headed toward victory, the handshakes began, although Hnatonko didn't want to say anything until the final district was in.
He'd hoped "to get one more vote than I did last time," and admitted to getting a little teary-eyed as realized he was on his way to being elected. "I'm stunned at the outcome."
Fred Kurpiel, 91, who says he's the town oldest town meeting member, wanted his picture taken with Harrington. "I told him to run three years ago," he said.
Later, as supporters greeted the winners at the restaurant, Harrington said he would work to make the deliberations of the town more open.
"The clear mandate ... is all the predictions are wrong," he said. "The town deserved change, the town is looking for change and Jason and I will be instrumental in making that change happen."